Maryland is joining 15 other states who are filing suit in federal court, challenging President Donald J. Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, the state’s attorney general announced at on Feb. 18.
Following the longest shutdown in U.S. history, Trump declared a national emergency, in the hope of obtaining the funding he needs to build his promised border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border without needing approval from Congress for the funds.
While the recent government shutdown lasted from Dec. 22 to Jan. 25, because of an impasse between Trump and Congressional Democrats over funding for the wall, Trump signed a funding bill on Feb. 15 to prevent another shutdown. The Congressional bill passed and Trump signed in, but it allocates only $1.375 billion in funding for border security, far short of the $5.7 billion he asked Congress for in late-2018.
Now the president is attempting to go around Congress, which has the power of the purse under the U.S. Constitution, by declaring a national emergency. This is a measure that could allow him to take funds allocated for other executive branch agencies and to use to fund his long-promised wall.
However, even according to the president, a federal court could strike down his executive order declaring a national emergency, as the move is a potential attempt at executive overreach.
“And we will have a national emergency, and then we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the Ninth Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there,” Trump said during his press conference when he announced the national emergency at the border. “And we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we’ll get another bad ruling. And then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we’ll get a fair shake.”
On Monday, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh announced that Maryland will join 15 other states in filing suit in federal court against the president, saying his decision to declare a national emergency was unconstitutional.
“There is no justification to declare a national emergency at our southern border,” Frosh said in a statement. “The basis for President Trump’s declaration is fabricated. It is an illegal power grab and an abuse of executive authority. We are bringing this suit to defend the Constitution.”
For Trump, the decision to declare a national emergency came after months of failed negotiations with Congress over funding for his promised border wall. While Trump had asked Congress for $5.7 billion in border security, which would cover some parts of the border with some sort of physical barrier, while adding other security measures, Democrats balked – claiming the recent midterm victory for them was evidence that voters rejected Trump and his wall.
The dispute eventually led to a government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, during which Trump refused to sign and fund a resolution that Congress passed, which did not include the $5.7 billion he asked for in border security. The Democratically-controlled House of Representatives refused to pass any funding bill that included the amount Trump had asked for.
“It is a gross abuse of power – and likely illegal – for President Trump to go around Congress to fund his border wall,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in a statement. “Inventing an unnecessary emergency declaration to pay for his wall by redirecting funds already allocated to our military or domestic infrastructure sets a dangerous precedent. I am confident this lawless act will be struck down by the courts.”
The National Emergency Act, passed in 1976, gives the president power to access special powers in the face of a national crisis. For Trump, the smuggling of drugs and people across the U.S.-Mexican border constitutes a national emergency even though elected leaders in both major parties have criticized the move as a presidential overreach.
While previous presidents have declared national emergencies before, Trump is using his latest declaration to allocate funding for a border wall – something that, under the Constitution, would need the approval of Congress. However, Trump could be overruled if two-thirds of the members of both the House of Representatives and Senate vote to nullify the national emergency.
“The probably easiest one to win is on declaring a national emergency, because we’re declaring it for virtual invasion purposes: drugs, traffickers and gangs,” Trump said.